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A Rainy Day in Serio's 

It was definitely a Monday " Pee Wee wouldn't have been with us if his barbershop had been open " and it was raining hard enough to drown a dolphin. We were in town and had ducked into Serio's " me and Pee Wee and Jimmy Chimichanga. The red beans were great, and now were gone. But not the rain, so we were stuck with ourselves. Plus several others, including a sheepdog of a guy reading a pocket Bible, a gal with lovely hair horribly fixed and a rack like a caribou, a lawyer dressed like a Genoan pimp, and a homegrown woman who obsessed about her weight like a collegiate wrestler " so much so that she probably never lost any of it. None was with any other, just a bunch of strangers hiding from the storm.

'If this rain lets up, I wanna go to this secondhand magic shop in the Quarters," Pee Wee says. 'You know, I'm practicing my act. What ya think would be a good name for a midget magic act, "The Astounding Teenie?' Or maybe "The Great Minuto?'"

As usual, Jimmy was paying Pee Wee very little attention. 'My neighbor has a weeny dog that she's named Oscar Mayer Lansky 'cuz she loves Jewish gangsters," Jimmy says. 'When she calls him, she yells, "Come here you disgusting bastard!' Boy, she loves that dog."

Now it was Pee Wee's turn to pay very little attention to what was being said. He pried open the hat box from Meyer the Hatter and fished out a Dobbs center-dent Panama he bought an hour ago. He looked as pleased with himself as a new rooster.

'I didn't know they made size-three hats," is Jimmy's commentary.

'If anybody does, it'll be Meyer," I say. 'They been making hats since the Democratic frontrunner was Millard Filmore."

Pee Wee wisely ignored both of us and stared at the holy one. 'Whatcha reading there?" he asks.

The guy closes his Bible. 'Holy Scripture," he says. 'Epistle to the Romans."

'I dug the Romans," Jimmy says cheerfully. 'That Russell Crowe made a good Roman."

The Holy Roller just smiles and says, 'When a person my age takes to reading scripture all the time, you might say he's cramming for his final exams."

'I'm a spiritual person, too," chimes in Caribou-rack. 'I've got a Shaolin master of stress reduction and he's just been encouraging me to drop some of my volunteer activities. I just hadda cut back on helping people. It was making me crazy. Within a few days, I was already feeling so much better."

'Not having to look at all those people needing help," I mutter, but I don't think anybody hears. Nobody seems to know what to say next, so everyone falls quiet and we can all hear our hefty girl talk on her cell phone. The talk goes something like this: 'So I said, "What are you doing in there? You can't stay in the bathroom all night. I got to get in there. I gotta take my contacts out. I'm coming in.' So I open the door and he's got the tub fulla bubble bath and candles burning all around the tub. So I said, "Well, you got everything you want except me. Should I get you some wine?'"

It was about then she figured out we were all listening, so she hurried up and said goodbye.

'That was my sister," she explains, even though nobody has actually asked. 'We were laughing about our old family habit. See, our grandma was a real good cook, in everything but her bread pudding, which was basically stale French bread with canned fruit salad soaked in. So that became our little way of describing a truly awful dish to one another without having to publicly say so. Like, if something was terrible, we'd look at one another and say, "This reminds me of Nana's bread pudding' and we'd know." And then she starts fooling with her amazingly retro hairdo.

'It was like a code, a family code," I say, but the lawyer cuts me off because like most of his kind, he has even more to say.

'I have a code, too. Like, I don't mind at all lying to someone who's already lied to me " but I won't lie first. It ain't much of a code, but I'm stuck with it."

This is how this guy is turned out for the day: A Hugo Boss suit, a Canali cotton shirt and silk tie, Cesare Paciotti sky-blue python loafers, topped off with some Zegna sunglasses perched somewhere in his pompadour.

'Well, if you're surrounded by other lawyers, it must not take long before you're entitled to some reprisal lying " according to your code." Sometimes, I can't help myself.

'Say, pal. Do you show up in court dressed like that?" asks Jimmy.

'I live beyond my means," he says and winks like something big has blown in his eye. 'But I can afford it."

It's not raining sideways anymore. People start talking about law cases and, naturally, before long they're talking about divorces. Pee Wee has a couple of those.

'Before my second wife walked out, she got some green-handled scissors and trimmed the cuffs off my pants. "His pants always looked long to me,' she says. A funny lady."

'Bikini briefs look long on you," Jimmy says.

'Watch it, mister," Pee Wee says. 'Remember that sometime next week, I'll have some sharp scissors very close to your eardrum."

Caribou-Rack starts talking about her neighborhood crime-summit meeting and how she really meant to go. 'But truthfully, I was a-scared to go out after dark."

This reminded Jimmy of an obit he had read about some guy who had caught a .40-caliber slug in his teeth. 'But the best part was he had been shot four previous times " three in the past year. I don't know about you guys, but shoot me once, shame on you; shoot me twice, shame on me."

'People just love this town," insists The Rack.

The rain is almost gone; now it looks like something dripping from a face rag. 'Come on, we can still get to the magic shop," swears Pee Wee. 'I wanna be a magician before I gotta report to the Trio Sicilliano."

'What is that?" I ask.

'Lamana, Panno and Fallo," reports Pee Wee, drawing himself up to his full height. 'The Alimony Finals."

Jimmy looks him up and down. 'The Astounding Teenie has spoken," he announces.

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